When I set out to complete my resolution of giving up sugar for the month of January, part of me thought it was going to be easy. Cutting out sugar? No problem. I'd done it once before and I could do it again. I also thought that by the end of the holiday season, I'd be so over-saturated on sugar that the idea of hyper-sweetened food wouldn't sound as good and I'd be able to use that aversion to jump start this break from my favorite food group.
I quickly discovered two things working against me. First, that just because it's no longer New Year's Eve doesn't mean I don't still have piles of treats in my possession. And, second, that my holiday sugar binge may have been feeding the monster. While taking that initial plunge into sugar freedom was a challenge, I'm beginning to think it might have been worth it.
I sit across the table from my husband and my cousin at breakfast as they casually run through all the ways I can sneak sugar into my diet. "So you can't ADD sugar to your meal," my cousin says. "But what if your meal is actually just a honeycomb?"
I laugh, but when I quasi-mournfully package up the leftover holiday cookies and place them in the freezer (I may or may not be using them as additional incentive. Let's just say I know where I'll be on February 1.) I'm equal parts excited to see what rewards come of stepping away from my sweet tooth and apprehensive about this decision.
"Apparently force of habit is going to present as much of a challenge as cravings."
I'm exceedingly proud of myself for a sugar free day (I can do this!) until I get to the checkout line at the grocery store and, while eyeing the lemon candies placed right at eye level, realize the all natural, chemical free mints I was sucking on after lunch are probably made entirely of sugar. I remove them from my purse when I get home and try not to berate myself. I'm sure this won't be the last mistake I make this month, and making myself feel bad about it is completely beside the point. Apparently force of habit is going to present as much of a challenge as cravings.
I see a photo of a mug of hot chocolate on Instagram and all I can think about for the next 15 minutes is how pretty the marshmallows looked and whether or not I should have permitted myself to consume honey and maple syrup. I'm also exhausted... which I'm thinking may be sugar detox rearing its ugly head.
My skin (which has been unusually problematic lately) looks clearer and I'm willing to give the absence of refined sugars credit, but I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye on things.
I catch myself eyeing the bottle of honey on my counter so I tuck it into a cupboard and quell thoughts of eating it by the spoonful. I was hoping my cravings would be gone by now (the last 24 hours or so were gloriously craving-free) but it seems that's not the case. I settle for eating a bowlful of mandarins as an afternoon snack and promise myself a mug of hibiscus tea or spiced cider for dessert.
It's my husband's birthday so I watch him eat a mini bundt cake. He lets me smell it, which might be the strangest part of my week so far but it also smells amazing so it's sort of worth it?
Following a doozy of a day at work, I'm ready to jump headfirst off the bandwagon. This leads me to my couch, where I eat dried mango and ponder my emotional dependence on sugar. Normally at the end of a rough day, I'd follow a semi-conscientious dinner with dark chocolate peanut butter cups or a half a pint of ice cream. The temptation is there, but I know that in the end it won't be worth it. I still eat too much dried mango and continue to evaluate whether or not I'm emotionally and physically addicted to sugar.
"For the most part, this sugar free challenge has resulted in overall cleaner eating, but maybe it's time to take a closer look at all the fruit I'm adding to my diet and replace it with veggies."
Although my overall energy levels have seemingly leveled out—I'm not feeling like I've been run over with a truck in the mornings like I was for the first few days, and I actually wake up a few minutes before my alarm goes off this morning—I'm not feeling great. It might be the cold that seems to be going around my office, or it might be the Costco-sized bag of dried mango I'm apparently trying to consume in record time. For the most part, this sugar free challenge has resulted in overall cleaner eating, but maybe it's time to take a closer look at all the fruit I'm adding to my diet and replace it with veggies.
My husband and I spend our evening with some friends. Thinking I'll likely need to fend for myself on the sugar free front, I plan ahead and pack a favorite flavor of kombucha. (Here are some thoughts on whether or not kombucha can really be considered sugar free.)
We plan to eat dinner out with my parents this evening. I've somehow managed to avoid eating out for almost two weeks now in an effort to have a better handle on what is going into my body, and while I'm looking forward to the meal I'm also trying to remind myself to extend a little grace… to myself. Sometimes I find myself thinking of this challenge as an actual competition—how strictly can I adhere to my sugar free rules for this month?—but that means that I'm also willing to view myself as failing or losing when I make a mistake or poor decision.
How I'm Feeling Halfway Through
I'm feeling kind of great but also kind of like I want to eat a chocolate chip cookie right now. But I'm seeing small changes already, and it's only been two weeks! My skin is clearer, my energy levels more balanced and I'm effectively decimating all traditional serving suggestions for fruits and veggies. Green smoothies and I are pretty tight the last few days.
I've definitely, obviously made mistakes, like unthinkingly popping a breath mint and discovering my favorite gluten free bread has not one but two sources of added sweetener (cane syrup and tapioca syrup—what gives?). But overall, I'm doing it! And that feels pretty good.
I have some challenges coming up, like a work trip where I'll be traveling for three days and eating out (and risking hidden sugar) more frequently as a result, but I feel like I'm getting the hang of this sugar-free lifestyle and establishing some habits (okay, trying to establish some habits) to keep my jonesing for sweets in check. My two best tricks at the moment? Drinking a ton of water and having a mug of caffeine-free herbal tea after dinner to give myself something to do besides reach for that bar of chocolate hidden in the back of the pantry. (This one is my favorite.) I'm also planning to try out these detox truffles to reward myself from making it halfway without any big slips.
Anne will be coming back at the end of the month to share the results of her journey going sugar-free. Until then, you can catch up with our other writers' resolutions.